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“Nature’s Fear Factor,” a recent PBS NOVA episode, illustrates the value of fear in maintaining healthy ecological relationships between species. A preserve in Mozambique that was destroyed by civil war provided the setting and proof of the theories. Surviving animals left with no predators tend to overeat and over-procreate. They wander out of their traditional environs, devastating delicate balances that sustained the environment. Scientists discovered one solution was to reintroduce wild dogs to frighten and cull the self-indulgent herds. Just a thought, but did we as Americans accidentally create Far Right Republicans to scare us into paying more attention to our world? Did we need to be threatened with plague, fascism, and global calamity to build new strength into democracy and provide life-giving relief to our earth?
Those who accept that the corruption of the past few years encouraged more Americans than ever to become active in politics worry that the masses have waited too long to react, as voting access is decreased and authoritarian rules targeting the vulnerable become common. A minority is wielding unprecedented power over the majority by distorting laws that depended on integrity to function. When elected officials say, “No, I don’t want to” like a spoiled child, our institutions wobble. Likewise, when large groups rise with their own lack of comprehension and self-interests as their guide, deliberately choosing bellicose lies over facts, democracy is endangered. Why isn’t the majority rising up with more drastic actions—recalls or other ways to reintroduce balance? Are we indoctrinated victims unwilling to exit the cage?
Fear reminds animals to run lean and be smart in their choices. Perhaps members of the majority of Americans should take the lesson to heart. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of pleasures before the health of the planet. We hate the idea that we should live within limits, but is it necessary? When we were all in quarantine, we saw that the planet and its other inhabitants thrived with us out of the equation. Pollution cleared. But we weren’t having fun or making money. We like squandering water and fossil fuels. We want to think those who suffer from drought, wildfires, floods, and tornadoes did something to set themselves up. Surely, we didn’t have anything to do with it. Surely. We simply want to party and buy new stuff.
How scared do we have to become? How many millions must die? How smart do you have to be to recognize that an internationally respected vaccine is a wiser choice to help manage a pandemic than consuming cow de-wormer? When did we mistake gullibility for freedom? How do we continue to accept violence as necessary when we have accomplished so much without it?
We’ve been betrayed online and from pulpits by people who should know better. I’ll admit I used to honor alternative medicine. However, I no longer listen passively to doctors who tout alternative remedies to the exclusion of treatments whose effectiveness anybody who can read a graph can see. Not all traditional medicine is a rip-off. Not all alternative medicine is good. My email is stuffed with advice from people who just happen to be selling a rare concoction only they possess that they insist performs better than science. What’s the difference between them and Big Pharma? They obscure facts as they promote themselves. Now I sort my emails carefully. Greed for control is as contagious as the Delta Variant.
Thinking people are going to require rest and, perhaps, therapy after this depressing era has ended…if we are alive and able to recover…and if this era ends in our lifetimes. For the moment, we need to get into shape, work together, and run smart. The predators are hungry.